“The reinforcement of the troops on the Kuril Islands with modern weapons and military hardware will continue,” he noted. He also did not rule out mobile air defence systems Pantsir-S1 will be deployed on the islands, and outdated air defence systems Buk-M1 will be replaced with a new model Buk-M2. The Defence Ministry source added that along with equipping the troops with modern weapons Russia launches the construction of new military townships with their own infrastructure on the islands Kunashir and Iturup.
The newspaper recalled that the 18th machinegun-artillery division, which is the only and last one in the Russian Ground Troops, is deployed in the Eastern Military District on three Kuril islands – Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan. The division is armed with combat military hardware produced in the 50s-70s of the previous century.
It is hard to say when the weapon reequipping could have reached the islands, moreover, the Defence Ministry officials noted that only ten percent of combat military hardware of the Russian Armed Forces meet modern requirements, if Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had not visited the islands last November. He went to the islands, as many experts believe, only because Japanese governmental circles, particularly the former prime minister Naoto Kan, began to use the problem of “disputable northern territories” in the country’s foreign and home policy. After the visit to the 18th machinegun-artillery division the Supreme Commander-in-Chief stated that Russia will take “all the efforts to build up its strategic force on the Kuril Islands.” Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov pledged that the program for reequipping the division will be drafted by late February.
Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov stated earlier that Russia is planning to put a mobile coastal missile system Bastion with the missiles Yakhont into service of the Russian troops on the South Kuriles. The newspaper noted that this coastal missile system is designed for the seacoast fire support at a distance of 600 kilometers and can be used to hit the surface vessels and ground targets. Nikolai Makarov noted that the strength of the Russian troops in the Kuriles will not increase. “We will not increase my personal staff, but the potential of our force will be built up substantially,” the general pointed out. The former first deputy defence minister, Vladimir Popovkin, who is the incumbent Roskosmos chief, pledged a year ago that the first helicopter carriers Mistral, which Russia bought in France, will also be dispatched to the Pacific Fleet “to protect the Kuriles.”
Unnamed experts from the Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted that only a substantial reinforcement of the Russian troops on the Kuriles, including the deployment of 30 gas-turbine and highly maneuverable tanks is excessive on the islands, as well as the Mistral deployment. Japan will hardly ever try to fight back ‘the disputable territories’ with the use of force from the country, which has a solid nuclear missile potential.
The reequipping of the 18th machinegun-artillery division on the Kuriles becomes clear if only to play on the nerves of Japanese politicians and evoke sharp criticism from them.